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Movie review: Brick April 19, 2008

Posted by ashiah in old.

What is with society’s obsession with high school? Most people, at least to my knowledge, never speak highly of high school and are simply lucky they made it out alive. But of course, Hollywood sees things otherwise, and in their world high school is cheerleaders, jocks, football games and four glorious years. But to believe this fantasy the viewers need a suspension of disbelief…and that’s fine. After all, not everyone is a realist. What Brick does is take the contemporary, ordinary high school setting and dress it up in such a way to make it unenjoyable unless the viewer suspends their belief. So basically, Brick is your fantasy high school movie, but turned on its head.

The characters in Brick don’t talk or behave like real teenagers. Everyone speaks a little too fast and uses jargon that hasn’t been used since the ’40s. There are no teachers at the school, the hallways and parking lots are always half empty, and there are no adults…anywhere. For someone going into this film not knowing what to expect, the first 15 minutes will probably be tough to get through. But eventually, the viewers realize that the film is a contemporary spin on the film noir genre and just happens to be set in high school. Once that point is clear, the events that take place are somewhat endearing. Teenagers being fast talking schemers and witty detectives; it kinda makes you grin.

Brendan sees the light.

But Brick isn’t a cute high school play. Besides a few scenes, Brick is a serious film about love and death, much like the film noir genre. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Brendan, a loner who is trying to solve the mystery of his ex-girlfriend’s death. After interrogating (and beating the crap out of) an assorted group of colorful characters, his search takes him to an underground drug ring run by The Pin (Lukas Haas), which he learns has made a huge contribution to his ex-girlfriend’s murder.

In Brick, everyone is a suspect, everyone is hiding something and everyone has a secret. Just like the typical film noir, there’s the femme fatale, the tough guy, an old seductive fling and a domineering boss. But once again, since this is all set in high school, there are mild changes. For example, when Brendan first meets The Pin and is threaten and beaten by his croons, afterward they go upstairs where The Pin’s mother serves them milk and cookies.

Although all the actors deliver, the one minor critique is the relentless old-timey slang that is spit out faster than one can comprehend. I had to watch the film with subtitles. For those who saw it in theaters, well, I guess they were just lost. I can see they wanted to try their hardest to stay loyal to noir, but there were other noir rules that were broken. For example, the typical film noir is very dark and shady, while Brick is a bright film with plenty of shots of cloudy skies. There were plenty of good one liners, and Brendan always had witty things roll off his tongue, but it could have been toned down just a notch.

But besides minor critiques, Brick is a successful fantasy high school film. We know high school wasn’t like this, but who cares?



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